Edmonton

Councillor bent on saving Eastglen pool in northeast Edmonton

Three pools in Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods may stay afloat despite the city's suggestion that closing them will save the city $1.4 million a year.

'What the heck were we doing for the last three years consulting the community?'

Eastglen Leisure Centre on 114th Avenue and 68th Street has one of the city's few salt water pools. (City of Edmonton)

Three swimming pools in Edmonton's mature neighbourhoods may stay afloat, despite the suggestion that closing them would save the city $1.4 million a year.

Closing the pools requires council approval, a decision expected to be made by Dec. 14, when the 2019-2022 operating and capital budgets are passed.

Coun. Tony Caterina said he is determined to keep the outdoor pool in Oliver, Scona Pool in Strathcona and the Eastglen pool in his Ward 7 open.

"I will be bringing that forward as to basically leave those pools alone," he said Wednesday. "I hope that certainly other councillors in other areas of the city will reinforce the need to keep all three."

Coun. Michael Walters also suggested that closing the pools is not in line with the city's vision of revitalizing core neighbourhoods.

"I think it's counter to our infill narrative, our mature neighbourhood, sustainability narrative," he said. "I think there's other ways to make those pools operate more effectively and sustainably from a financial perspective."

Residents in these neighbourhoods have given input to council during recent public hearings on the city budgets. Dozens have shown up to fight for the three pools. 

Jan Kuperus lives four blocks from the Eastglen Leisure Centre and relies on the pool and its programs.

Her husband, Harry, uses the salt water pool for therapeutic exercise.

Jan and Harry Kuperus live four blocks from the Eastglen Leisure Centre and go there on a regular basis. (CBC)

Many people using the pool have physical disabilities or injuries, she said, and have found a home at Eastglen. 

"Because it's so intimate and small, people get to know each other."

Kuperus said she goes swimming in the morning then has coffee with other swimmers.

"It's just a very important community asset."

Judith Evans goes to Eastglen for aquafit classes and lane swimming.

"It's light and airy," she said of the facility. "Natural light comes in, it's a salt pool, it's a friendly place."

Evans was involved in consultations over the past few years. She doesn't think it makes sense for the city to close the facility.

"It does seem like the left-hand side doesn't know what the right-hand side is doing in the city."

Judith Evans thinks the city's assessment of Eastglen pool is based on limited data. (CBC)

A committee formed by the city is "making recommendations based on some very limited data," Evans said. "I find that quite annoying."

In the city's program and service review, which is still underway, Eastglen is listed as a highly subsidized facility with low cost recovery. The city estimates it costs $19 a person to subsidize. 

The review shows the city could save $900,000 a year if it closed the pool.

Caterina is also perplexed by the about-face, considering the city was consulting and engaging the community up until September.

"If I'm in a consultation process and the city's telling me that they're considering X or Y, certainly I don't expect Z to be the one that they recommend a month after the consultations."

"So what the heck were we doing for the last three years consulting the community?"

Caterina called the move "completely offside from the administration perspective."

Council will start debating the $3-billion operating budget and $4.3-billion capital budget on Thursday.

@natashariebe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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